Two Hands - rated - SIMMERING

Two Hands have a Light Touch

It's incredible to think that (until I upgraded Eyes Wide Shut on a second viewing) I'd given Gregor Jordan's little debut film the same rating that I've given to Eyes Wide Shut! Perhaps that means that my marking system is not fine enough. But it also means that a small film which has a lot of charm and freshness can give a flawed masterpiece a pretty good run for its money...that's showbiz!

Gregor Jordan's quick-witted script and brisk direction take us on a fast and furious trip through the seedy side of Sydney's inner-city and a suburb or two. The story's a tried-and-true one if you forget about the supernatural side of the story. Actually, I wish Jordan had forgotten about it, because it only detracts from the grounded, frank, no-nonsense scene he's depicting. But even so, the film seems fresh precisely because of the straightforward, practical approach Jordan (mostly) takes to the story. This practical approach reaches its zenith for me in the story of what happened to one of Acko's (David Field's) bullets. It was a classic moment among many classic moments. Crims have families too, don't they? They do housework don't they? So they have all the problems that go along with it.

From the very moment the film opened I knew we were in for something original: the opening credits were absolutely outstanding, and the first scenes were (literally) a knockout. Jordan had instantly created a cinematic world, and we were sucked into its vortex.

Jordan's film is perfectly cast - which is very important, because the material, though fresh, is not exactly new, and the black comedy needs just the right touch. Wisely, he has cast a past-master (Bryan Brown) in the pivotal role of Pando. Bryan has the required gravitas for Pando, but its a down-to-earth kind of gravitas. Heath Ledger is also just right as the handsome but slightly dense hero, Jimmy. For a good-looking guy, he really manages to look awful in his initial scenes as a bouncer. In fact, there was something wonderful about the greasy sweatiness of all the crims and lowlives in this film. I've not seen it in a film before that I can recall, and it added immensely to the tone of the film.

A very strong supporting cast helps no end in presenting the script in the best possible light. David Field, Susie Porter, Tom Long, Steve Vidler and Steve Le Marquand stand out. And even the very young Rose Byrne who plays Jimmy's love interest looks just right and projects exactly the right note of innocence. Her incoherent gushing was paradoxically eloquent!

I've already mentioned the extraordinary opening credits, but the rest film looks great too. And there are one or two transcendent moments - such as the scene where Jimmy returns to Pando's office, through the neon arrows which draw him to his fate. An excellent musical score completes the picture - with jagged guitar chords (some played by the director himself) keeping us on edge.

Apart from the false note of the supernatural elements, some confused moralising involving a young kid, a deus ex machina catharsis, and a corny final scene which was completely at odds with the rest of the film, this film was a surprised and a delight. Gregor Jordan just needs to trust his basic material more. Everything was there in the story to make the points he wanted to make, without the carnage involving the little girl (Mariel McClorey). It was enough to see her passing Jimmy in the neon-lit hall. And a scene like the one involving the car accident is enough to make anyone take stock. In a no-nonsense world, we don't need outside help to make those connections.